Adapted by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Proofread & audio edited by Jana Elizabeth.
Hello, this is Richard. And I'm here with a fairytale from Brittany in the north of France. The story is adventurous, romantic, and quite long - so I’m going to read it in two parts.
Once upon a time, in the land of Brittany, a noble baron, by the name of Kerver lived in a fine castle with his thirteen children. But Kerver Castle, although strong and impressive, did not have enough bedrooms for the whole family. The youngest son, Yvon, had to share a room with one of his older brothers. This Yvon had the nickname of “Fearless,” which was well deserved. For once, when he was only twelve years old, he had fought a wolf with his bare hands. When he reached sixteen years of age, he decided to leave the cramped castle, and go out into the world in search of a good fortune, a good woman, and a spacious place to live.
His father cheerfully agreed to let Yvon follow his plan, because, to be honest, he had so many children that one more or one less did not matter that much to him.
Yvon set off in a ship, flying a blue flag emblazoned with a picture of a unicorn attacking a lion. This was the Kerver family coat of arms. Underneath the picture was the word, “onward” which was the Kerver family motto.
Onward he sailed over a calm sea, but his journey ended abruptly some nights later when the ship struck a rock. The timbers made terrible sounds, creaking, ripping, and wrenching, as the whole vessel tore in two.
Yvon found himself floundering in the sea among the debris. He gulped down salty water, which tasted foul, and thought, “I was not born so I could feed the fishes this night.” He mustered all his strength. “Onward!” he shouted and began to swim towards the shimmering silvery light which he rightly understood to be the shore. Some time later, dripping and exhausted, he dragged himself onto the sandy beach and fell asleep.
He slept until dawn, then pulled himself up and began to explore. He wandered for a whole day before he came to a farm. As he walked up the track and past the barns he saw that the main house was huge - as tall as a church it was.
“Is anyone around?” he called out. The only reply was a low mooing from a shed.
He went up to the huge door of the house and knocked as hard as he could. No reply.
It was only when he picked up a huge rock and used that to bang on the door that he heard a voice within that bellowed, “Door open!” Then the door opened by itself, and Yvon found himself looking up at a giant.
“Who are you, and why are you standing there gorping at me like an idiot?” asked the large fellow.
“My name is Fearless,” said Yvon, “and I am on a journey to seek my fortune. Right now, I need some food and a place to rest at night. I’m strong and willing to work.”
“Well,” said the giant. “Go round the back of the house, and you will find a plate of boiled potatoes and cabbage on the kitchen window sill. That will be your supper. You can sleep in the cow shed. In the morning you can muck out all the manure from the shed. I will be going out to look at my sheep. Make sure you have this simple job done before I return.”
“Yes, sir,” said Fearless.
“Oh, And one other thing,” added the giant. “Make sure you don’t go nosing around the house while I am away, or you shall regret it.”
“Right-oh,” said Yvon, and he went to look for his supper and some clean straw to lie on in the cow shed.
At the break of day, Yvon awoke to the sound of the giant stomping over the fields. He got up and threw open the door of the shed. The light poured in, and he looked at all the piles of cow manure. “It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two for a strong lad like me to clean it all out,” he thought to himself. Then he glanced over at the house.
“I reckon,” he reasoned with himself, “that the giant is keeping something in that house that he really doesn’t want me to see. And I further reckon that he doesn’t want me to see it because it’s valuable. He warned me not to go and take a look, but I didn’t earn my nickname of Fearless by not taking any chances.”
And so he ambled across the yard, wondering if anyone else worked on this farm, for he was yet to spot another human being below the size of a giant. When he reached the house, he called out, “Door open!” and the great door opened.
He stepped into a high vaulted haul, lit by burning candles. On either side were many doors. He pushed one open and found a room that was empty, apart from a fireplace where a pot hung above some logs. An intense heat was radiating out of it.
“That’s strange,” Yvon said to himself, “because the fire isn’t lit, and yet the cauldron is as hot as a volcano. I reckon that must be because it’s using magic.”
He stood on a chair and peeped into the pot. It contained a luminous orange broth with a wrinkled surface. Could it be carrot soup? If so, it was made from the brightest carrots he had ever seen. It was so dazzling that his eyes hurt. He took a log from the fireplace and dipped it into the soup. When he pulled it out, it was covered in the thick liquid and then he realised it was molten gold.
“Very nice,” he said to himself.“This wooden log is now a golden log. That might prove useful on my travels. What other valuables will I discover in this house of wonders?”
He carried on looking into rooms until he found a parlour where he found something even more interesting than the pot - a young woman was arranging golden flowers in a bowl. She looked up at him. Her large dark eyes were startled. “Who are you and what is your business here?” she asked.
The boy tried to figure out her place in the house. Was she a servant or a lady? Her dress was bright, almost dazzling. Not, he thought, in the most tasteful fashion for a woman of a noble family, but her jewellery suggested wealth. There was no shortage of bright bangles on her wrists, and on her chest she wore an unusual necklace made of a gold chain and six golden bullets.
“My name is Yvon, though you may call me Fearless,” he replied, “and I have taken a job as a stable boy in the service of the giant.”
“Oh, unfortunate youth!” exclaimed the woman, throwing her hands up in the air as she spoke.
“Me? Unfortunate? I don’t think so,” he insisted.
“The giant will give you nothing but impossible jobs!” she explained.
“Why, don’t be silly! All I have to do is to sweep out the cow shed. It’s less than half an hour’s work for a strong lad like me.”
“Hercules could not do it in ten weeks!” insisted the woman. Every time you chuck the dung out of the door of the shed, twenty times as much manure will blow straight back in. You’ll disappear under a pile of cow poo!”
“Funny, he didn’t mention that,” said Yvon.
“No, he wouldn’t, would he?” she said. “But I will tell you something useful. Take a fork, turn it the wrong way round, and use the handle to sweep the dung. It will all fly out by itself.”
“Right-oh,” said the boy. “It’s very kind of you to mention that important detail. I’m most grateful.”
He returned to the shed where he used the fork the wrong way round, and all the cow dung flew out of the door. The job was done in a matter of minutes - and just in time too because sooner than expected, he felt the ground tremble as the giant stomped back to the house. He went out to meet the master.
“How did you get on?” asked the giant.
“All done,” replied Yvon.
“Really?” asked the giant, and he went to inspect the cow shed. When he saw that all was spick and span, he asked, “Who helped you do this impossible job?”
“No one, sir,” replied the boy.
“Really?” asked the giant, again.
“Yes, really sir. All this dung cleaning is my own work. And I’m happy if you like what I’ve done. I aim to please.”
“Hmmffff,” said the giant, before saying, “Well tomorrow, I’m going out to the fields again. While I’m away, you can go up the hill and fetch my horse.”
“Yes, sir,” said the boy.
“And be sure,” added the giant, “that you don’t go nosing around the house, or else…”
“Oh yes, to be sure,” replied Yvon. But the next morning, as soon as the giant was gone, he did just as he had been told NOT to do. He went into the house to find the young woman. He discovered her in the kitchen baking bread.
“You again? Why have you come back?” she asked.
“Yesterday, when you were so helpful to me, I forgot my manners,” said Yvon. “I did not ask your name or what you are doing in this house.”
“Since you are so curious about everything,” she replied, “I will tell you that my mother was a fairy who was taken prisoner by the giant. I grew up in this house, and it is my misfortune to live here. My name is Finette.”
“Well, Finette, I am pleased to meet you,” said the boy. And he sat down at the kitchen table with her, and told her all about his young life and adventures. Finette listened with great interest, until eventually she said, “It is getting late. What task did the giant give you?”
“Oh just to go and fetch his old nag from the hill,” said Yvon.
“Just to go and fetch his old nag from the hill!” exclaimed Finette. “And I don’t suppose he mentioned that his horse breathes fire from his nostrils and kicks and dances like a troop of Cossacks and will toss you off his back in a moment?”
“No, he didn’t mention that,” said our hero.
“Well listen. Take the golden bit that hangs behind the stable door, and force it between the horse’s teeth. After he has it in his mouth, he will be as tame as a lamb.”
“Thanks Finette,” said the lad. He ran to the stable to fetch the golden bit and tackle, before climbing the hill to the field where the horse was out to pasture. For a moment, the animal looked at him with blazing eyes, and then charged like a bull, snorting fire from his nostrils. Fearless Yvon stood his ground and rammed the golden bit between the horse’s teeth. The giant’s horse immediately became calm, allowing Yvon to saddle him up and ride him down the hill. On the way, he noticed that the fiery breath had singed his coat, but he was otherwise unscathed. He reached the house just as the giant was returning from his sheep.
“I see you tamed my horse,” said the giant. “Who helped you?”
“No one sir,” replied Yvon. “I am riding him fearlessly all by myself. I like a spirited horse.”
“Are you certain nobody helped you?”
“Yes, sir,” said the boy.
“Hmmmmph!” exclaimed the giant. “Well tomorrow, I have another easy job for you. All you have to do is to jump into the dark and bottomless pit at the end of the farm and collect the rent from the goblins who live inside it. And mind you keep away from the house, alright?”
“Yes sir” said Yvon. “You can rely on me, sir.”
But the next morning, as soon as the giant was gone, he slipped into the house to look for Finette. He found her upstairs dusting the furniture.
“And why have you come today?” she asked.
“Because yesterday, I forgot my manners, and only spoke about myself,” he said. “I want to ask you all about what your favourite games were when you were a child.
And Finette happily told him all about her childhood pastimes, including paddling in the stream behind the house, collecting wild flowers, and keeping a baby goat.
Time passed very quickly - until she remembered to ask him what his task for the day might be.
“Oh, just to jump into the dark and bottomless pit and to collect the rent from the goblins who live inside it,” he said.
“Just jump into the dark and bottomless pit and collect the rent from the goblins who live inside it? Is that all?” asked Finette sarcastically.
“Yes, that’s all I have to do,” replied the boy, fearlessly.
“Well,” said Finette, “this is what you must do. Jump down into the pit. You need not fear because you will float in mid air. There you will bump into some goblins also floating around in the dark. Ask them to give you the rent, but only what you can carry. If they give you too much, you will sink down and down and never be seen again. But if you ask for only what you can carry, they will give you a bag of gold, and you will rise up to daylight again.”
This was the strangest task of all, but the boy trusted in the words of his wise friend. He did just as Finette had told him. He stood at the top of the bottomless pit and shouted, “Downward Fearless!” before jumping straight in. At first he fell through the darkness, further and further down, until at last he stopped falling and floated in mid air. In this part of the pit, golden winged goblins glowed in the darkness, flitting this way and that.
“What have you come for,” asked one of them.
“Give me the rent, but only what I can carry,” said Yvon fearlessly. Just as Finette had said, the goblin gave him a bag of gold, and he floated safely up to the top and out into the fresh air. Just as he was getting used to using his eyes in the daylight again, he saw the giant.
“Who helped you fetch this?” asked the giant.
“No one sir, you can see that I brought it all by myself,” replied the boy.
“Hmmmmph!” said the giant. “Well, come to the house an hour from now and you will receive the reward that you deserve.
“Thank you sir,” said Yvon, before going to fetch his plate of cabbage and boiled potatoes from the window sill of the kitchen.
Meanwhile, the giant stomped into his great house and called out, “Finette! Finette! Come here and don’t delay!”
Finette soon appeared before him with a curtsy.
“Here are your orders,” said the giant, “Listen carefully, and carry them out well. This evening, the stable boy will come to the house. Take the golden knife from the kitchen and use it to chop him up and throw him into the soup. He will make my supper all the more satisfying.”
Finette nodded and curtsied, “Yes, sir,” she replied.
Some time later, Yvon knocked on the door. Finette went to the kitchen to fetch the golden knife, and she walked softly into the hallway and commanded. “Door open!” The door opened and, as expected, she saw Yvon standing on the step.
“Come with me to the kitchen,” she told him. There they found a cauldron containing golden broth that was bubbling away merrily, though no fire was lit below it.
“Now help me,” she said and they chopped up anything they could lay their hands on - rugs, boots, curtains, stools, and chucked them into the the soup.
“Now give me your finger,” said Finette. Using the golden knife, she pricked his skin and let three drops of blood fall into the pot.
“That’s it, I don’t think we have forgotten anything. We’ll leave it to boil, for now it is time to flee.”
The pair tipped toed through the hallway, out the magical door, and started to run in the direction of the sea.
Meanwhile the giant, who had been snoozing in a room by the fire, woke up and called out, “Finette! Finette! Bring me my supper!”
When he received no reply, he got up and looked in the kitchen. There he saw the soup simmering in the pot. He took down a ladle, scooped up some liquid, and slurped it warily, for it was hot.
“Finette!” he called out, “You forgot to put salt in it!” But then he felt weary and strange, his legs started to give way, and he collapsed on the kitchen floor in a deep sleep.
By the time he awoke, the pair of fugitives were well on their way. He came storming out of the house, and chased after them with great strides. Yvon and Finette felt the earth tremble.
“Do not give up hope yet,” said Finette, “for perhaps one of my charms will save us.” She pulled a golden bullet from her necklace and threw it onto the ground with the words:
“Golden bullet, save us pray,
Stop the giant on his way.”
As she spoke, a great ravine opened at the feet of the giant, and he tumbled straight down into it.
“Now run!” said Finette, and the pair ran onto the shore. The deep blue sea stretched out in front of them. Behind them they could hear the giant scrambling out of the ravine.
“Now what do we do?” asked Yvon.
Finette plucked a second golden bullet from her necklace and hurled it into the sea with the words:
“Golden bullet, bright and pliant,
Save us from this frightful giant.”
As soon as a she had spoken the magical words, a beautiful ship rose out of the foam like a swan spreading its wings. The pair dived into the sea and swam up to where it lay anchor. A sailor dropped a rope ladder over the side, and first Finette, and then Yvon climbed up. The ship set sail, but it had not gone far before the giant reached the shore and dived in. He was swimming after them with many a great splash.
“Now how do we escape?” asked Yvon.
Finette took a third bullet from her necklace and cast it into the sea with the words:
“Golden bullet in the sea,
Save us now, finally.”
And as soon as she had spoken the magical words a sea monster rose up out of the depths of the sea and swallowed up the giant.
The crew cheered and sang as they sped across the waves.
“My clever Finette, we are saved,” said Yvon. “Come with me to Kerver Castle and let us be married.”
But Finette did not look happy. She stared out to sea.
“What is the matter, my enchantress?” asked Yvon.
“I see the future,” said Finette sadly. “You shall forget me.”
“No, how is that possible?” asked Yvon. “You are the most unforgettable person in the entire world.”
Finette turned to look at him.
“We must beware of the giant’s aunt,” she said. “For she is a powerful witch and she shall seek revenge on us.”
And that was the first part of Finette, a tale from Brittany, adapted by Bertie for Storynory, and read by me, Richard Scott.
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